The only B.C. candidate in the election for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is showing momentum heading toward the vote in Vancouver on Wednesday (July 25).
Miles Richardson, a former president of the Haida Nation, was endorsed today by former national chief Ovide Mercredi.
“I know Miles as a good friend and strong advocate for our peoples to return to nationhood," Mercredi said in a news release. "I support him fully knowing that his leadership will be inclusive and respectful of our diversity, aspirations and sovereignty."
Mercredi served two terms as national chief and led negotiations leading up to the Charlottetown constitutional accord, which was defeated in a national referendum.
He also tried to negotiate an end to the Gustafsen Lake standoff in B.C. in 1995.
Richardson has been on the board of the David Suzuki Foundation since it was created in 1992. He's also a former chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission.
“It has become increasingly clear to me, from First Nations I have been speaking to across the country, that we are at a crossroads and must decide whether we should try to fix the colonial Indian Act system or chart a new path, rebuilding our nations and building a proper Nation-to-Nation relationship with Canada," Richardson said in a news release. "My vision is for the latter, and to have the support of Ovide Mercredi for my campaign and platform buoys my confidence that together, shoulder to shoulder as Indigenous peoples, we can do this."
Mercredi is from Manitoba, but chose not to endorse the two Manitoba candidates for national chief. They are Keewatinowl Okimakanak former grand chief and former broadcaster Sheila North, and Wipazoka Wakpa Dakota Nation community leader Katherine Whitecloud.
The incumbent national chief, Perry Bellegarde, is seeking reelection. The only other candidate is Kahnawake Mohawk policy analyst Russell Diabo.
Last week, Richardson was endorsed by another former national chief, Matthew Coon Come, a former grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees in Quebec.
And this weekend, he received a public message of support from Ashley Callingbull, who was named Mrs. Universe in 2015.
B.C.'s best known Indigenous leader, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, has not yet publicly disclosed whom he'll be supporting in the election.
But he did tell the Globe and Mail in April that he's been impressed by North's grassroots, bottom-up approach.
“I find her to be a very serious, deeply committed and dedicated leader and quite frankly it’s time we had a woman leading the Assembly of First Nations,” Phillip told the Globe. “It’s time.”